Grand Rapids Community College and West Michigan Works! will lead a coalition of employers, workforce development organizations, educators and community groups to help underserved populations gain in-demand manufacturing skills with a focus on automation and artificial intelligence with help from a $9.8 million U.S. Department of Labor grant.
The One Workforce for West Michigan Manufacturing project will help people who are unemployed or underemployed gain transformative academic and career skills with enhanced support. The program will build a talented workforce to fill existing job openings and prepare for the future of manufacturing, helping residents and the region as a whole.
GRCC was one of 19 organizations in the nation and two in Michigan to earn grants in the program.
“This grant is one in a series of funding opportunities helping GRCC and our partners get our region back to work — and in this case, the manufacturing community is the beneficiary,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “The number of entities coming together on this project shows how cooperation and collaboration makes our region grow and thrive. West Michigan is strongest when all of its people have access to opportunities. We appreciate the Department of Labor’s support in our efforts.”
The One Workforce coalition includes employer partners Autocam-Medical; Scherdel Sales & Technology; GE Aviation; JR Automation; LG Chem; Magna; Howmet; Aggressive Tooling; Steeplechase Tool & Die; Montcalm and Muskegon community colleges; West Michigan Works!; Discover Manufacturing Sector Group; and the Agribusiness Talent Council; and community agencies Grand Rapids Urban League, West Michigan Hispanic Center, and Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids.
“This coalition will not only provide much-needed skilled talent to our employers, but much-needed resources to some of our residents being left behind,” said Jacob Maas, West Michigan Works! CEO. “West Michigan is home to many amazing community colleges, community-based organizations and employers. We are grateful to be a part of this effort and excited to build on previous successful collaboratives.”
Advanced manufacturing is a vibrant, dynamic and growing industry throughout the state, but especially in West Michigan. More than 600,000 people are employed in the manufacturing cluster, and the fields provide a variety of sustainable employment opportunities and upward mobility as they advance along a postsecondary career pathway.
The program’s community partners will help identify potential students, focusing on people who are low-income, have language barriers, lack foundational skills, or face other barriers to success.
“This funding opportunity will allow GRCC and our community college partners to update and add programming in manufacturing automation, and begin to build data analysis and other skills needed to work with artificial intelligence and data in manufacturing,” said Julie Parks, GRCC’s executive director for Workforce Training. “This grant will assist in preparing West Michigan for the future of manufacturing through a holistic approach.”
The Labor Department focused on public-private partnerships to leverage federal, state and local resources, as well as from the private sector to support training, employment services and supportive services to increase access to employment opportunities.
“The U.S. Department of Labor is challenging communities to think as ‘One Workforce,’” John Pallasch, assistant secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, said in a release.
“In a post-coronavirus world, it is critical that local organizations think as one instead of independent parts of a process. Our goal is to create seamless community partnerships to build career pathways for local job seekers to enter middle- to high-skilled occupations in cyber security, advanced manufacturing and transportation.”
Grand Rapids Community College offers learners of all ages opportunities to gain credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills leading to rewarding careers. GRCC was established in 1914 – Michigan’s first community college – and offers affordable classes on weekdays, evenings, Saturdays and online at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.
GRCC has earned more than $16 million in grants in recent weeks, all aimed at helping build the West Michigan community and economy through education.
The Labor Department awarded a $5 million grant to build capacity at GRCC and four other Michigan community colleges to meet regional healthcare employers’ demands for a skilled workforce through the department’s Strengthening Community College Training program.
GRCC also earned a $1 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to connect people in vulnerable populations to career opportunities related to the city’s river restoration projects, infrastructure, and public works.